Can laser hair removal work on darker, brown or olive skin tones?
We receive this question daily. Can a laser hair removal device work on darker skin tones? The short answer: Yes, laser hair removal works on dark, brown and olive skin tones. It is a myth that you cannot use laser hair removal if you have darker skin tones.
A few decades ago, this may have been true. Then, laser hair removal was used mainly by people with fair skin and dark hair. But unfortunately, the lasers could not distinguish between hair follicles and skin pigment correctly. This meant that those with dark skin could risk burns, scarring, and discolouration. Also, laser hair removal would not work as it should.
This statement is no longer valid with advances in technology, research and development over the last few years. Almost everyone can now use laser hair removal. Of course, if you have a dark complexion, then it may take longer, but it will work nonetheless.
Laser hair removal is a process that will take a few sessions. It is also not the cheapest option, so it is best to ask a few questions before investing in permanent hair removal.
How does laser hair removal work?
Lasers target the hair follicle with an intense light, which causes permanent damage so the hair will no longer grow. It works by targeting the pigment in the hair. The contrast between the darkness of the hair and the skin will help the laser focus on the hair follicle. There is numerous misconception about why people don’t think laser hair removal works on olive or darker skin tones.
Smarter lasers have since been designed. In addition, there is a range of inclusive lasers that can now be used for people of colour. Two laser technologies are worth mentioning, the ND: YAG and Diode lasers. They are the preferred lasers for people with higher levels of melanin.
- The ND: YAG laser is sensitive to subtle differences in pigmentation between the skin and hair. It is suitable for any skin tone and produces one of the more powerful beams. Results in shorter sessions as few pulses are needed to complete the job. The wavelength goes deeper into the skin and offers a safe and effective option. This laser has been increasingly popular for clients with dark skin tones.
- Diode lasers are gentler, it effectively removes hair whilst ensuring maximum protection to the surrounding tissue. It works on all skin tones but best on fair to olive skin tones. Because it is a gentler laser, some have mentioned that the Diode laser is a less painful procedure when compared with others.
Things to be aware of:
Choose the most suitable laser for yourself. As mentioned already, having darker skin tones increases the risk of laser hair removal related side-effects. The ND: YAG and Diode lasers are highly sensitive to colour and melanin, so they will precisely penetrate the hair follicles without damaging your skin. Using a laser that delivers longer wavelengths would decrease these risks.
However, if you get laser treatment with a laser that is not right for your skin tone or in the wrong setting, you will not get the results you want, or even worse, you can end up with burns and damage to your skin.
Dark skin tones are more sensitive than lighter skin tones. Each laser device has a different laser specifically designed for a range of skin tones. So don’t be shy; ask the seller before purchasing a device. Make sure first if the machine can be used for darker skin tones. What is their experience? If you are committed to spending this much time and money to remove your hair permanently, then take some extra time to make sure you have asked all the right questions.
Always ask for a test patch. As the saying goes, “better safe than sorry” there are risks of laser-related side effects, especially for dark skin. These include; dark spots, and hypopigmentation. If this is your first time, we at Bareskin would suggest you have a small test patch done to see if you might be prone to these side effects.
Be patient. It takes an average of eight weeks to eradicate hair growth. Laser hair removal takes time, and how long it takes will depend on your skin tone and hair type. After each session, you should be able to observe reduced hair growth. Thicker hair and darker skin tones will most likely take more sessions using the Bareskin device. Remember, this is an investment, and once it is over, you won’t have to bother with the tedious chores of shaving, waxing, or plucking.
Jennifer Taylor mentioned that you should remember to consult the beauty technician at Bareskin. We at Bareskin would provide you with any questions on the laser hair removal device and how many laser hair removal sessions would be needed.
Follow the pre and post-treatment advice.
These guidelines below will help protect your skin and ensure you gain the maximum benefits from your laser treatments.
- We all know that the sun emits harmful UVA and UVB rays. So, we advise you to avoid direct sunlight for a few days before and after a treatment session.
- It is impossible to avoid the sun altogether, so please use adequate sun protection (SPF 30+)
- Bleaching, plucking, and waxing should also be avoided. For at least two weeks before and after a session.
- Avoid exercising after a laser session for at least 24 hours. Redness and swelling may occur, and there are a few treatments to alleviate these symptoms; cool compress, aloe vera gel, and soothing creams.
- Skip the skin products containing harsh ingredients, primarily if you use a laser to remove facial hair. Ingredients like glycolic acid, retinoids, and benzoyl peroxide can make your skin more sensitive to the lasers used and cause an adverse reaction.
Laser hair removal is a great way to rid your body parts of the hair you don't want growing. Yes, it takes time, but it is safe and effective. You ask the right questions and read the FAQ section before buying your Bareskin machine—no need to worry if you have dark or olive skin tone. There are lasers designed for all skin tones and hair textures.
Medically reviewed by: Dr. Robert Walters MD (Dermatologist)